New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has pretty effectively deflected attention away from new corruption allegations into a story about how MSNBC is totally out to get him. Maybe after 9 am, when Joe Scarborough goes off the air for the day.
On Saturday morning, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer told MSNBC's Steve Kornacki that New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno threatened to withhold relief funds for Hurricane Sandy unless Zimmer backed a development project in the city. The project has not yet been approved, and Hoboken has received $342,000 of the $127 million it requested after being submerged in the storm. After Zimmer's appearance, it didn't take long for Christie's team to respond. By 3:30 p.m., they'd released a statement calling MSNBC a "partisan network" that has been "openly hostile to Governor Christie and almost gleeful in their efforts attacking him."
In its look at the relationship between Christie and MSNBC, The New York Times quickly pointed out one sympathetic outpost inside the network: Morning Joe, hosted by former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.
Off camera, the governor developed close ties to anchors like Ms. Brzezinski, even showing up at her book signing not long ago. Immediately after Mr. Christie concluded his apologetic news conference about the controversy last week, he spent 15 minutes on the phone with Ms. Brzezinski as he prepared to face Fort Lee, the small community crippled by gridlock from the lane closures, she said.
Shortly after the Christie allegations came to light, the Morning Joe pair noted their friendship with the Christies, as Politico reported. And the day after the Zimmer revelations, Brzezinski "spoke fondly of Mr. Christie and his wife," the Times said.
On Monday morning, Scarborough picked up the thread in Christie's defense. Zimmer "can't have it both ways," he argued. As transcribed by TPM:
"I'm not saying she's not telling the truth, I'm saying something much worse," Scarborough said. "Because I've heard all of this about what a saint she is and how horrible Chris Christie is … I'd never in a million years go to constituents who voted for me and say that a governor is a good man, that I support and I'm asking them to vote for him, if I thought 'he was so corrupt that it literally brought tears to my eyes.' That is a question of character."
Scarborough's echoing a common defense of Christie following the newest allegations. After the alleged incident with Guadagno, Zimmer endorsed Christie for reelection. In conversation with CNN, Zimmer produced journals backing her claims that she said were contemporaneous with the lieutenant governor's threats. (Zimmer spent several hours talking with investigators from the U.S. Attorney's office over the weekend; Guadagno has publicly denied her allegations. As The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza points out, the journals begin with discussion of Guadagno's alleged threat.) To Kornacki, Zimmer said she "probably could have come forward" last year, but that she had to work toward the interests of Hoboken — which required that she play ball with Christie.
The governor's friend Joe Scarborough wasn't buying it. It's not terribly surprising that, if anyone at MSNBC would defend Christie, it would be Scarborough. Last week, he argued that MSNBC's coverage had been fair, but critical, saying that he's friends with a lot of people in D.C. That argument withered a bit this morning. Christie is, after all, the practical embodiment of Scarborough's center(-right) political worldview. And MSNBC shouldn't mind his defenses too much; it makes rebutting Christie's ad hominem critiques that much easier. (Brzezinski, for the record, was more critical of Christie on Monday; in that segment last week, she stated that their friendship with him mandated "extra scrutiny.")
The Times reports that Kornacki has extended an opportunity to Christie to appear on his show. That'll never happen. But it might be worth it to Brzezinski to pick up the phone.